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A Sluggish Policy on Iran

By Toney A. Schloss (source: The Valley Reporter, Vermont)

Suzanne Maloney, Iran specialist, Brookings Institution:
"Sanctions cannot be an end to themselves...I don't know that the administration has a real clear idea of what comes next."

The administration has mysteriously avoided engaging the Iranian government in a comprehensive fashion, instead employing a single-track, nuclear-obsessed and inevitably punitive approach, sans sufficiently credible evidence to bolster their argument, and likely at the behest of a certain lobby. This after an initially half-hearted attempt at rapprochement, in too narrow a context, that could never have had the slightest chance of success, unless it were a juicy and tempting deal, and it obviously wasn't, or was prevented from being. This instance of abulia at worst, or most optimistically, lacuna, in the studied understanding of the admittedly recondite Iranian psyche, has led to a dangerous situation: One that needlessly imperils the futures of both countries and is internecine to their economic and long-term security interests. If moneyed interests are orchestrating such reckless endangerment, and President Obama has been forestalled from acting prudentially and to the best of his ability on Iran, it's detrimental to the interests of the United States. America would be abundantly served by a strategically-driven, multi-faceted approach. Containment and sanctions aren't productive: They unnecessarily prolong the stalemate, and serve no party.

Thankfully, as evinced by recent statements from Iran's government, there's still hope, but only if we shed the burdensome yoke of those with a vested interest in the subjugation of U.S. policy in the Middle East. Some in foreign policy circles suggest Israel is unwilling to implement policies leading to peace and long-term security. Obama has sincere intentions of making progress on peace, and upon election 71% of Obama voters wanted him to get "tough" with Israel; presumably enough to benefit all players, but not to the extent of compromising Israel's security. Israel's time is running out. They're subject to a demographic time bomb, which raises the question: Do they intend to permanently relegate Palestinians to second class status, creating a de facto apartheid state? This would seem illogical for a professed democracy, and would draw harsh criticism while increasing militancy in the region. The alternative is to acquiesce to Palestinian statehood.

Hamas and Hezbollah, factions that can only be handled multi-laterally because they're subordinate to Iran, won't draw back until it's in their interests, making Israel's security impossible without Iran's cooperation. It's unattainable presently, due to the West's unproductive, inimical policy of isolation, hauteur and obloquy vis a vis the Islamic Republic. By including all players in expansive discussions, peace can be realized, provided Iran receives security guarantees. Hamas and Hezbollah both have legitimately elected political wings, and can de-emphasize their military roles. Some say a deal would be appeasement. This is a jerry-built argument. A strategic accord wouldn't compromise principles or grant concessions without gainful returns. What would be received would be priceless and lasting, with American values being the vehicle. If the U.S. is to be perceived as an even-handed arbiter, President Obama must be free to use his manifold skills and engage unencumbered by solipsistic Washington interests.  

Our Middle East policies should align with the American values expressed in President Obama's Cairo address, and not undermine its message. We aren't extending equality, opportunity or justice to the Iranian people, but rather, threats of genocide via nuclear weapons, as per the Nuclear Posture Review. How can we support their opposition while implicitly threatening nuclear holocaust? We aren't inspiring the Palestinians to believe in an ameliorated future, or adequately reassuring Israel. It's attributable to the detestable, self-serving special interests, who won't afford our president the political space to maneuver a tenuous diplomatic tightrope. It seems they'd prefer an Iranian pogrom and death of the reform movement, threatened U.S. interests and an uncertain Israeli future, rather than to avert catastrophe and rescue the peace process, via free unfettered diplomacy.

The "unfettered" approach should be accompanied by a free exchange of ideas and truth in the public discourse. We could dispel the myths about Iran and finally form the components for an accord. The latest National Intelligence Estimate states Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons, and the IAEA confirms there's no evidence of diversion of nuclear materials towards weaponization. The rational is exiguous, if non-existent in justifying the protracted, pugnacious puerilism towards the Islamic Republic. There are no excuses to engage in lies for political purposes. We must find a diplomatic solution to the impasse, without interference, and be patient and persistent. Perpetual antagonism is no solution. The only solution is the "Grand Bargain." There are no in-betweens.   

It's obligatory to communicate the truth, based on the evidence, to serve the American interest and foster peace and productivity wherever possible. We could forge economic, military and cultural ties with Iran while becoming allies within the comprehensive framework; inherently assuaging the nuclear dispute, securing the Jewish state, and forming a bulwark against Sunni terrorism. The Afghanistan and Iraq theatres would improve, given Iran's influence. Iran may sign the communiqué barring non-state actors from obtaining nuclear materials within this context. The Israelis, among other nations, remain in violation of international law because they possess illegal nuclear stockpiles, and must sign the NPT and comply with its obligations. Israel's current position concerning nuclear weapons only serves Iran's argument. Israeli political and military hegemony in the region hasn't succeeded in securing its future.

There's confusion in our policy and apprehension about the future regarding Iran. A pre-emptive strike on the Islamic Republic would be predicated on conjecture, with far worse consequences than Iraq. Iran would participate and cooperate in a respectful, multi-faceted context. Should future war arise, we'll have foregone peaceful coexistence and initiated conflict, making it a premeditated and conspiratorial act. The American people and our troops deserve better, having suffered under a failed administration for eight years; one that drove up the deficit after inheriting a surplus, presided over the Katrina debacle, and lied to justify the Iraq war. Let's get it right this time on the crucial issue of Iran.

About the author:  Toney A. Schloss is a graduate of the University of New Orleans and Tulane University.  He is a student of the Iran subject, and an Iranian American.  With a background comprised of all three monotheistic faiths, he offers a unique, diverse and balanced approach to the Iran subject, and all related issues.

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